Every Tuesday in The Minority Report, Drew Dixon takes a look at trends in youth culture and offers some biblical wisdom for navigating them.
I recently took the high school graduates in my church on their senior trip. These students had been very active at our church, serving both the student ministry and the wider church body and so I wanted to reward with a special trip of their own choosing. During the trip, my wife and I learned about the new phrase that was going around, “YOLO” which stands for “you only live once.” Its a new take on carpe diem—only with a bent toward making brash decisions regardless of their consequences (I would post links to memes but I would invariably offend someone).
YOLO is now a popular phrase being bandied about by young people. In fact while on our senior trip, a group of high school girls came up to our group asking if they could video us shouting “YOLO” for a scavenger hunt they were doing. When I discovered its meaning on the trip, it quickly became an inside joke in our group. Given that my job as their pastor is to shepherd their hearts toward Christ and help them consider eternal things, I gather that there is a certain amusing irony to hearing one of your pastors shout “YOLO” when asked if we should ride that roller coaster one more time or not.
“Do you want regular or frozen Butterbeer (we were at The Wizarding World of Harry Potter in Universal Islands of Adventure)?” “Frozen! YOLO!”
“You want to go swimming or go to bed early?” “Swimming! YOLO!”
“Should we get regular or Double Stuff Oreos?” “Double Stuff! YOLO!”
Rappers, Drake and Lil Wayne, are credited with coining “YOLO” in their song, “The Motto”, though it is unclear whether they were the first to use the phrase. In the context of “The Motto” it seems that the rappers intended the phrase to be used to encourage people to seize opportunity and be willing to live outside their comfort zones. That is a noble notion and yet whatever its original intent, the phrase has been taken in a very frivolous direction.
Is there anything behind this phrase that Christians can get behind? We know that the apostle Paul said, “Look carefully then how you walk, not as unwise but as wise, making the best use of the time, because the days are evil” (Ephesians 5:15-16). The way of life that Paul called Christians to, however, was influenced by the reality of the coming day of the Lord and by faith in the eternal nature of the human soul. So perhaps the Christian motto should be something like “You Only Live This Life Once” or “You Only Live Once, Then Comes Eternity” but YOLTLO or YOLOTCE are not nearly as fun to say.
Silly memes aside, YOLO, for the Christian, at the very least is a helpful reminder that we have a limited time to live. That is an important consideration in our age of constant distraction. Its a helpful reminder in any age. There is nobility in the phrase YOLO. It is our self absorbed culture that has taken the phrase in a destructive direction. I don’t intend to start a campaign to redeem the phrase, but I do hope to make the most of my time today because “Jesus is Lord . . . YOLO!”